Haughton Hall in the late 17th century Haughton Hall in the late 17th century (Knuyff & Kip, c.1699)

Of Haughton, the next village, though not of greater importance in its aspect today, there is more to be said concerning its history in the past. The river Idle still continues to be the source of the motive power of a mill as in the time of Edward III., when John de Lungvillers had two messuages, half a carucate of land, ten acres of meadow, and two water-mills, which he held by the service of a rose; and possibly the present mill stands on the site of one of those existing even before his time. The daughter of Lungvillers married Mallovel, Lord of Rampton, and took Haughton to that family. Thence it passed to the Stanhopes, who sold it to Sir William Holles, the ancestor of the Earls of Clare.

Two centuries and a half ago one of the most famous country mansions in Nottinghamshire was situated at Haughton, but now all that is left of it are some ancient stones worked into the foundations of the outbuildings of a farmhouse. It was within this stately mansion that many members of the celebrated Holles family were born; and in the little chapel, whose ruins may still be seen on the banks of the meandering Idle, they were christened and buried. We have before us an engraving of the Hall, showing the magnificent grounds by which it was surrounded. The chapel seems to have had only a nave and a north cemetery or burial-place. Throsby mentions a memorial on the old stone floor containing the words ‘Jesu mercy, Lady helpe,’ and under the arms ‘Orate pro ai Johanne Stanhope, Uxor Henrici Stanhope, Arm., etc.,’ the armorial devices being those of Lungvillers, borne at that time by the Stanhope family. Other monuments to the dead were also in existence, for the Holles manuscripts in the British Museum refer to ‘two pourtraytures which ‘seem by their habits to have been chaplaynes.’

Haughton Park in the late 17th century
Haughton Park in the late 17th century (Knuyff & Kip, c.1699)

A magnificent deer-park of 900 acres stretched in front of the great mansion, which was surrounded by a moat, and over this was a drawbridge protected by an embattled gatehouse. A tower was built to the house by John Stanhope, who also added the south side. The Hall owed its erection to Sir William Holles, who was son of a Lord Mayor of London, and inherited a great fortune, through which he was able to purchase the estate from the heiress of the Stanhopes and her husband. He kept up a princely style of living at Haughton Hall, and his hospitality was almost boundless, especially in the festivities at Christmastide, when the population of the district thronged to participate in the good cheer, and witness the performances of a band of players which Sir William kept to enliven himself and his guests. ‘Thirty proper fellows’ accompanied him when he attended the sessions at Retford, and at the coronation of Edward VI. he appeared with a cavalcade of fifty followers in blue coats and badges. His death took place in 1590, and he lies buried in Haughton Chapel.

The grandson of this wealthy knight, Sir John Holles, was the next to take up his residence at Haughton. He had shared in the glories of the Spanish Armada, and his proud grandsire desired him to marry a relative of the Earl of Shrewsbury; but upon the death of the old knight he preferred to wed a daughter of Sir Thomas Stanhope. Holles was high in favour at Court, and Henry, Prince of Wales, visited him at Haughton. He obtained a peerage in 1616, when titles could be bought, and the £10,000 he paid for his honour was used to defray Lord Hay’s expenses to France. An additional £5,000 raised him to the dignity of Earl of Clare, and dying in 1637, he was buried in St. Mary’s Church, Nottingham.

John, second Earl, was in possession of the estates when the Civil War arose. Mrs. Hutchinson, in her solemnly decisive way, says of him that he was ‘often of both parties, and of no advantage to either.’ But the Earl’s brother, Denzil, was a man of sterner mettle. He lives in the history of England as that member of Parliament who held the Speaker of the House of Commons down in the chair till resolutions were passed against Arminianism, Papistry, and illegal tonnage and poundage—a scene described by Carlyle in his terse and pointed language. Holles was one of the five members whom Charles I. went down to the House of Commons to arrest. He and Pym, forewarned of what was about to happen, retired, and the monarch was baffled and crestfallen at his failure to infringe upon the liberties of Parliament. Next we find him a leader of the Presbyterian party; but fearing the usurpation of the army, that it would become as great a tyrant as the King had been, he sought to restrain its excesses, and was proceeded against as one of the members who opposed its ascendancy. Again he evaded apprehension, and withdrew to France. At the Restoration he returned to his allegiance to the King, and was created Baron Holles of Ifield, Sussex. He died in 1680, and was buried at Dorchester.

Haughton Chapel from the north
Haughton Chapel from the north (A. Nicholson, 1982). The chapel of St James: "the nave walls, where they stand, show Norman stonework everywhere, except on the north side, where a 14th century arcade was blocked up when the aisle was pulled down. The Transitional chancel arch is half-filled by debris; it had moulded capitals. The Norman south doorway with its zigzag ornament lies on the ground." (Pevsner, 1979, p139).

Gervase Holles, a relative, who lived at Grimsby, was a Colonel in the Civil War. In addition to his military duties, he developed a taste for literature, and collected pedigrees as well as much antiquarian information, contained in six volumes of manuscripts at the British Museum.

The third Earl of Clare resided at Haughton, but took little part in national events. His sister Anne married Lord Clinton, and was mother of Edward, fifth Earl of Lincoln. John, the fourth Earl of Clare, married the heiress of Henry Cavendish, second Duke of Newcastle, and acquired thereby Welbeck Abbey, where the Duke lived. The estates of Denzil Holles also descended to this nobleman, for the barony of Holles of Ifield had become extinct on the death of the grandson of Denzil without male heirs. The fourth Earl, therefore, left Haughton for Welbeck, and Haughton Hall was permitted to fall into decay. On the death of his father-in-law, the Earl was created Duke of Newcastle, but having no sons, the property passed partly to his nephew, Lord Pelham, who was created third Duke of Newcastle, with special remainder to the Earl of Lincoln, who succeeded him, and partly to his daughter, married to Lord Harley, whose only surviving daughter became the wife of William Bentinck, Duke of Portland. The remains of the old chapel and burying-place at Haughton have been fenced round, and the spot carefully protected as one so historic fully deserves to be.